Victorian Society reveals top ten list of buildings most at risk in UK today

Brighton Hippodrome interior. Photo courtesy Theatres Trust.

The Victorian Society has released its list of the ten outstanding UK buildings most at risk for 2020. The list’s only theatre this year is the rare survival, the Brighton Hippodrome.

Brighton Hippodrome, designed by renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham, is the country’s finest surviving example of a circus theatre. The building was originally built in 1897 as an ice rink, but it was transformed by a major rebuilding into a circus in 1901. It was once a thriving hub of entertainment, but today it sits empty and rotting. The most spectacular feature is the circular auditorium with its richly decorated ceiling in the form of a panelled tent. Schemes for a multiplex cinema, a new hotel, spa and serviced apartments were all announced but never materialised as the building went through a variety of owners. In September 2020, the building was sold to Brighton-based Matsim Properties. The Victorian Society says “The building remains vacant and urgent works are required. These should be urgently undertaken to prevent further deterioration until a viable and sympathetic new use can be found for this impressive building”.

Griff Rhys Jones, President of the Victorian Society, saidBrighton is a thriving city with a vibrant culture. If anywhere can support such a unique venue it is Brighton. In Blackpool, the restored winter gardens are being used to revive the towns fortunes. With staycations likely to increase in popularity and Brighton’s easy access to London, surely Matsim Properties can develop a plan which makes sensitive use of this building? What is clear is that losing many more years with nothing happening risks any of the building surviving.

For the full list of 2020’s Most Endangered Buildings, click here

Hulme Hippodrome in UK’s most at risk Victorian buildings

Hulme Hippodrome, photo courtesy Victorian Society website

The respected Victorian Society has included Manchester’s Hulme Hippodrome in its Top Ten most endangered buildings for 2019.

Opening on 10 October 1901 in the Manchester suburb of Hulme, the Grand Junction Theatre and Floral Hall (as it was originally known) seated 2,000 upon opening (with a further 1,000 seats in the adjoining Floral Hall.) It was designed by J J Alley, who designed a number of Manchester theatres including the Hulme Playhouse which was built the following year right next door to the Hippodrome, both theatres being joined by an arcade. Both theatres were part of the Broadhead circuit, which built its head office along the arcade between the two theatres.

The theatre fell into disuse in the mid-1980s and has been slowly decaying ever since.

The ornate, Grade II-listed building was bought at auction in May this year by a church group and there are major concerns for this vulnerable landmark building which is in a very fragile state of health.

Christopher Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, said ‘There is nothing sadder than a shuttered theatre. Central Manchester’s increasing prosperity has not yet spread to Hulme, which cannot afford to lose assets such as this splendid building.’

I managed to find a short film (below) taken in 2012 which allows us inside the Hulme Hippodrome, which as you can see was already rotting away under an undignified amateur paint job. Thanks to YouTube poster lazyeyebailey for the video.